tv Book Discussion on The Kurdish Spring CSPAN April 7, 2015 3:39am-4:44am EDT
real? not quite clear but the intent is there absolutely bad on b-2s sensitive economic issues but into personal lives of u.s. soldiers. at the end of the day white to the target u.s. soldiers? because they view them as the tip of the crusaders fear. the defenders of the cross. they believe in modern-- crusaders so many times they are targeting u.s. military. many times to target americans with the cyberrealm as well.
i forget the second part of your question. i am sure it is profound. funding. if it is profound. it makes. [applause] gore around. private donors from the persian in gulf region private wealthy donors better sympathetic to is the jihad and the other way is from the antiquities remember the heartland of the bible where jonah was with a profit daniels to in iraq and syria to have biblical significance. so it is just good old fashioned pillaging as they conquered will sold -- model -- and what what they took
from that conquest where isis kaposi's oilfields and they sell that on the black market in the middle east of turkey and syria began the lebanon and their making two or $3 million per day. so lots of different revenue streams. you see the tower and the village you make them pay tribute to with it exorbitant taxes so multiple revenue streams without a doubt. >> i cannot say kiwi neff. faq for coming.
this was held at columbia in new york city. >> good afternoon. and welcome on this snowy day to the book round table with david phillips. i am a professor of political science science at barnard and deputy director for social sciences and programming. on behalf of of the hammer institute and columbia university and want to welcome you to this book launch, book conversation, "the kurdish spring" a new map of the middle east authored by david phillips sitting here to your right. david is director of a program
on peacebuilding and rights about the study of human rights. he has worked as senior adviser to the united nations secretariat and the foreign affairs expert and senior advisor to the u.s. state department. so positions, different academic universities conflict resolution program director at the american university program on conflict and peacebuilding. he's a visiting visiting scholar for middle east studies and a professor at the academy of kenya. he has written numerous books. this is the latest one and he has been involved in peacebuilding operations, practice, theory, analysis throughout the world and has been to some far corners of the caucasus so can testify to the thought and care he puts into his analysis.
established in 1988. it initiated an armed struggle against turkey which resulted in the deaths of 30,000 people over the course of several decades. at the same time in iraq which became independent in 1932 the kurds saw their aspirations tonight. king faisal was an arabist. he believed in a pan arab approach. the kurds rebelled. they launch something called the maha bodnar public which was suppressed many thousands of kurds were killed. when saddam husein and the baathists came to power they negotiating autonomy provisions. these were merely in name only and never implemented so the kurds rebelled again and many many thousands were killed. in 1980 iran and iraq ended up at war. it was perceived in baghdad that the kurds were supporting iran. it was part of an effort to
create a security buffer on the iraq iranian border. as i said earlier almost 200,000 people is the result of that policy. in syria, there was the surely been movement which was a kurdish independence movement. many kurds who fled from turkey when iran was put down and adopt in syria. they are too the kurds suffered as a result of that baptist regime. their identity was denied. there were citizenship laws that were adopted in the kurds were denied citizenship rights. they were not provided identification cards so 300,000 kurds were essentially denied
and a privilege of employment or education. they couldn't marry or hold property. they joined with other opposition forces and put forward the damascus declaration 2004 which is really the root of the opposition in syria today but throughout the 20th century the kurds in syria suffered a terrible fate. the same can be said for the kurds in iran. they lost the kurdistan democratic party of iran. they supported the overthrow of the shah with the expectation that they would be given greater autonomy and rights by the new regime. they were denied those rights. in turn they boycotted the constitutional convention. they were distrusted by ayatollah khamenei. kurds are mostly sunni and they weren't seen as loyal to his regime. as a result of that we see across the four states were
kurds reside rebellion movements that were launched. the pkk in turkey, the kurdistan democratic party in iraq, what has become the p.y. d. in syria and the kde pim iran. the kurds are factionalized and there are deep divisions but when they are under duress they come together to defend their collective national interest. by the end of the 20th century we started to see a little bit of a turn in fortune. the u.s. established a no-fly zone over iraqi kurdistan in the kurds were able to govern their own affairs and that experiments in grassroots democracy inspired kurds throughout the region to seek something similar, federal arrangement where power was decentralized. >> it is an extraordinary tale these dispersal against the four states in the struggle of the
four states with their own challenges and parameters of regimes. you hinted at some turning points there in your last comments but how have kurdish movements and political organizations networked with each other? has the relationship also had some tensions? has it evolved? give us a sense of how in resistance to kurds have managed to find political expression or not in various points of history? >> because they were fragmented before poor countries they never coalesced as a coherent kurdish national movement. in each of the four countries there are
kurdish national movements but they are divided by tribal affinities, by language. he kurds of iraqi kurdistan enjoyed special privilege because of assistance that the u.s. provided after the gulf war. the kurds and other countries didn't benefit in the same way. we see a systematic crackdown against the kurds in syria by the baathists regime of assad. in turkey there was a resettlement policy. several million crews were relocated. villages were destroyed en masse. kurdish political and cultural rights were systematically denied. one of the things that bashar al-assad did successfully was to manipulate the kurds in syria against the regimes in iraq and turkey. the kurds unfortunately have always been the victims of regional and great powers who pitted kurds against kurds and kurds against the regimes and
the algiers accord in 1975 essentially expelled kurds from iran and the pan kurdish vision of a republic. the kurds until recently have never really coalesced as a group. i say until recently because the defining moment in this transition was the recent battle of kobani in syria. what we saw there was a truly remarkable occurrence. the kurds from the four countries join to defend kobani against the islamic state fighters and kobani was occupied almost entirely by isis until the u.s. launched airstrikes and decided to deliver weapons to the people's protection units which is a part of the pyd the kurdish syrian party. the pkk which has strong
loyalties with the pyd wanted to join the battle and kobani so did the kurdish militant group in iran. in iraqi kurdistan and the peshmerga negotiated an arrangement with 155 of their fighters transited through turkey to join the battle so you had kurds from all poor -- four -- countries essentially fighting together against the islamic state. initially the obama administration said kobani has no strategic value but it changed its view. it decided to launch airstrikes and to deliver weapons over the very strong objections of president erdogan in turkey. kobani is an emblematic event in the formation of the new kurdish national identity much the way hollister was in 1988. >> very interesting. let's bring ourselves up to date and delve into that a little bit more. it seems that the rise of isis has fundamentally affected
and changed kurdish u.s. cooperation. take us through some of the big changes going on now on the ground but also politically. how has the political terrain shifted because of isis? >> in may the kurds in iraq went to the u.s. government. they went to the government of baghdad and they warned that isis would launch an attack against iraq. their warnings were ignored. that phenomena of wishful thinking and ignoring reality has been a defining characteristic of foreign policy in this region and of the obama administration in recent years. june 10 the islamic state stormed across the border. they seized mosul which is the second-largest city in iraq. the iraqi army garrisons they
are, essentially fled abandoning all of his weapons. over an eight-year period the u.s. had invested $13 billion into a train and equip program for the iraqi army and in a 24-hour period the iraqi army folded. they left office state of the art military equipment made in the usa. islamic state forces rushed south through the deserts of anbar. they got to within a birdseye view of baghdad and shiite militias came out to meet them
point where we focused on retaking territory and assisted some iraqi forces and the battle to retake the mosul dam and launched counter offenses to regain other territory like on the region of the turkey/syria boulevard. all of this is happening at the same time we were getting involved in kobani and isis is a real threat to iraq to syria, it controls people that live under isis control. isis is well-armed because of the arms they seized from the
iraqi's armed forces. they were operating 18 oil wells and refineries and generate revenue from hostage taking and artifacts. the budget is estimated at $2 billion. they are a force to be wreck with. >> i want to back up because you have been very straight with criticizing u.s.-iraq policy and you have done so across both administrations in terms of the governance of iraq and some of the decisions that were made after the american military intervention there. so i want to get your take on the failure of the united states to reach a status of forces agreement with iraq. at the time there were different issues in the
negotiations, status of contractors, you know different rights of command and control. also the u.s. according to gates' biography told the iraqis they should consult with some other countries that have posted u.s. military forces in the past and it turned out that backfired because of the japanese and the they got all the details of issues that should be of concern to them. so we have this parting of the ways, this withdrawal of u.s. forces. what is your take on that? was that just one of these pivotal points and at the u.s. had withdrawn would we have seen the isis problem in all of its theory and complexity now? >> so isis goes back to the invasion and occupation of iraq. it was originally established as al qaeda in
mesopotamia. the surge of 2006 and 2007 was intended to deal with the sectarian conflict between shia and sunnis. it was the election of nouri al-maliki and his descendents to the prime minister that further polarized iraqi society. we should ascribe responsibility to the withdrawal of u.s. forces where it belongs which is with president bush. in 2008 he announced u.s. forces would be withdrawn. the day we set the withdrawal, timing and procedures for withdrawal were negotiated with the government in baghdad. the status of forces agreement to which you refer is something that the obama administration tried to negotiate with maliki's government.
they broke down for a variety of reasons mostly because the obama administration did want to stay. the iraqi government did want to happen there. the rationale for u.s. forces staying as a residual deployment was a hard case to make. so by the end of 2011 as you saw the u.s. essentially withdraw all of its assets from iraq, and mind you this was after we had invested enormous amounts of troops and treasure, 4500 americans killed, 30,000 maimed, $2 trillion spent. let's not forget 130,000 iraqi's that we know of who were killed. so it was really time for that war to end but in order for iraq to be viable and stable in the future we needed to have the government of national reconciliation. nouri al-maliki was just the wrong person to be in the prime minister's post at that time. he replaced sunnis from the armed forces.
he created his own shia led battalions. he turned to iran and iranian backed militias, assuming a more and more prominent role in providing security around the country. so the sectarian divide in iraq is fundamentally at the root of the country's problems today. we talk about a government of national union in iraq. maliki left. abbadi replaced him as prime minister but fundamentally nothing has changed. prime minister. the u.s. has also fallen into a little bit of a trap which has further polarized sunnis in iraq starting with arab spring and 2012.
revolutionary guard. he's not commanding from afar he is on site. shiite militias are on the front line. capabilities of the professional iraqi military still leave an enormous amount to be desired. so the perception that the u.s. has, essentially shifted its alliances through its negotiations with iran by finding common cause, you know, with hezbollah against muslim sunni fighters in syria have all polarized the sunni-shia divide and made iraq's viability -- which was already remote -- even more difficult to achieve. >> what about, you referred to them -- what about u.s. traditional allies in the gulf? how have they responded? what is their role in the whole unfolding of this political dynamic? >> make no mistake about it the initial funding or more al-qaeda and for isis came from
individuals in the emirates. it may not have been official policy of saudi arabia but members of the saudi royal family provided significant financial resources. monies flowed from the uae. there's a widespread view that the u.s. hasn't preserved its traditional alliances. particularly the arab spring and what happened in egypt raised all kinds of red flags because none of the sunni heads of state who we supported wanted to fall to the same fate as mubarak. and they pelt that america's loyalty and -- they felt that america's loyalty and support was at question. >> interesting. another neighbor, turkey. take us through turkey's performance, its strategy, its objectives throughout this whole
crisis the multiple constituencies that they're addressing. how do you view the turkish role both now and going forward in this? >> so turkey has proven to be a false friend of the united states. it has betrayed the interests of its strategic partnership with the iraqi kurds. >> how so? >> the kurds and ankara established a strategic partnership beginning in 2011. a pipeline was built from kirkuk to jahan on the eastern mediterranean. oil would be exported and stored in tankers in jahan. in 2013 there were $13 billion worth of turkish goods sold in kurdistan, there was an additional $30 billion worth of construction contracts that were agreed to, so there was a lot of economic cooperation.
what happened in 2012 in turkey was a seminal shift in the country's approach. then-prime minister erdogan felt deeply offended by president assad of syria. he turned against assad, with whom he had worked to establish friendly relations. he thought that the u.s. would lead an effort to support the free syrian army and the syrian national council so there would be are ea regime change finish there would be a regime change. when that didn't happen, turkey decided to support arab sunni extremists as the point of the spear fighting the assad government. and that included support for al-nusra and, ultimately, for the islamic state. so turkey was serving its own national interests without regard for its longstanding loyalty and ties to the united
states. when isis invaded iraqi kurdistan, the kurdistan regional government sent an envoy asking for weapons and support. they were told by the turkish counterpart that they couldn't respond because there were presidential elections coming up on august 10th. after those elections the envoy went back asking for help. they were told that turkey couldn't respond because there were 46 turkish diplomats who were being held hostage. they were seized from the consulate in mosul. during the battle of kobani, president erdogan equated isis and the pyd saying that they were terrorist groups cut from the same cloth. turkish tank battalions parked on the hills above kobani and watched the battle unfold without coming to rescue of the heroic defenders of ecobanny.
i should -- of coe -- kobani. 40% of the defenders were kurdish women. this was a huge strategic and public relates disaster for turkey. relations disaster for turkey. it showed turkey's loyalties to isis. there were reports that were published including a paper that i prepared documenting logistical connections between turks and the government of turkey, you know with islamic state fighters. they operated the jihadi highway through turkey to syria. they provided weapons and financing and logistics. when jihadis were injured on the battlefield, they were transported by turkey's ministry of health and given health care in turkish hospitals without having to declare their name or cup of origin. or country of origin. so so let me elaborate a little bit on the ideology. when the deputy prime minister of turkey said that women shouldn't smile or laugh because
it's un-islamic and they shouldn't draw attention to themselves, this is no different an ideology than baghdadi's ideology with the islamic state. the difference is that turkey doesn't chop off people's heads that they use other forms of coercion to advance their perceived strategic goals. finish -- so i really put isis and turkey in the same category. when we launched the multi-national coalition, turkey agreed to sign on, but they signed on in name only. there was no agreement no implementation of the agreement to allow an air force base in southern turkey to be used as a staging ground for coalition war planes. there was an agreement to train and equip the moderate syrian opposition. here again turkey didn't implement that agreement. it was just announced ten days ago they would, in fact set up a train and equip program for 400 fighters. but even now there's confusion about what the purpose of this is.
turkey's saying it's to turn against the assad regime the u.s. is saying that the train and equip program is to counter isis. when vice president joe biden goes to turkey and asks for turkey's help, he's repudiated by president erdogan and within hours of boarding his plane to leave, the president of turkey himself is uttering disparaging and degrading remarks against the united states. so i would say that beginning in 2012 turkeys has taken a decidedly undemocratic turn. if we were constituting nato today, turkey would not qualify as a member. nato is not just a security alliance, it's a coalition of countries with shared values, and turkey has demonstrated repeatedly under this authoritarian leadership of erdogan that it's no longer subscribe ising to western ideals -- subscribing to western ideals, that it's going to go its own direction.
and as a result of that there's serious question about the u.s./turkey alliance. >> okay. let's talk about possibilities of an independent kurdish state for a minute. what would be its viability? what would be the political obstacles that would have to be overcome? are we any closer to that now than we were before this conflict? how do you see the dynamic in northern iraq playing out and what are some of is the sign posts we should look for in the future? >> if we had this conversation in june after isis invaded iraq i would have said iraqi kurdistan was on the verge of independence. iraq was falling apart. it couldn't control its territory. when isis turned and attacked iraqi kurdistan, that changed the whole dynamic within iraq. two elements for independence are security and economic
viability. security has been restored in iraqi kurdistan but it hasn't been restored as a result of u.s. weapons provided to the peshmerga. finish the first country -- the first country to actually land and deliver weapons during the cry us was not the united states, it was iran. and the heavy weapons that the kurds need in order to deal with the isis armor are not being provided by the pentagon. missiles are coming from germany. france is providing 20 millimeter armor-piercing provisions. when i was in iraqi kurdistan a month ago, i spoke with senior kurdish officials and they explained the problems they have with the pentagon in getting the equipment that they need, their desire for heavy weapons including on thive heavy weapons -- offensive heavy weapons like tanks and artillery.
they said that the training has been sluggish. when i asked a senior u.s. official, he said, well, the peshmerga are on the front line fighting, we're having trouble organizing them. that notion was repudiated by senior kurdish officials. so the u.s. is a major obstacle to iraqi kurdistan's independence. the conditions of security and economic viability are being established, but they haven't been fully man pest. manifest. kurds have been trying to sell oil around the world. the u.s. has actively lobbied countries not to buy their oil. there was a kurdish tanker a kurdish -- a tanker filled with kurdish oil that was going through morocco. the u.s. intervened repeatedly with the the moroccan government not to buy the oil. there was a tanker off the coast of galveston, and the u.s. brought a legal action true a federal court -- through a
federal court to block the offloading of the oil. the kurds say we want to have income in order procure weapons and defend ourselves, so they haven't been allowed to do that. largely because the u.s., iran and turkey stand in their way. so they're not going to declare a unilateral declaration of undependence. -- independence. that would only invite the rancor of front line states. there's not likely to be a coalition of independence like the united states did with kosovo much to the bush administration's credit for having spearheaded that process. as long as the u.s. and turkey oppose it, there won't be a cbi. there needs to be some kind of negotiation with baghdad, and in december the krg and the iraqi government signed baghdad
agreement. that essentially renewed the distribution of funds from the central government to the krg. there's a 17% payout of national income that goes to iraqi kurdistan. that was suspended in january of 2014. because the kurds were moving to develop and export their oil without a revenue and royalty-sharing agreement with the central government. the baghdad agreement essentially was a revenue-generating agreement but it's a temporary deal. for just a year. it allows a 17% payout to resume. and it establishes an important precedent of the kurds and baghdad negotiating their differences. meanwhile, iraqi kurdistan needs to start acting more like a sovereign state rather than like a tribe or a militia. they need to establish greater
transparency over the oil revenues. there are an estimated 45 billion barrel of reserves in iraqi kurdistan. they need to have a crackdown on corruption. you know more inclusive and participatory politics. operation northern watch that was launched in 1991 the kurds have gotten a running start on building their institutions and establishing a democracy. so they're far ahead of iraq and other countries in the region. i would say the kurds have a positive democratization effect in each country where they live. so they can have a positive effect on events in iraq. with turkey having national elections the this june -- this june, kurds are standing as an independent party. if they pass the 10% barrier, erdogan's going to need kurdish support in order to change the
constitution and establish an executive presidency, so the kurds will be the dealmakers there. the kurds in syria have established an autonomous entity that is a reality. it's not going away. marley now that the kurds -- particularly now that the kurds have shown some battlefield prowess. when the asyrian christians were seized in northeastern turkey, it was the syrian kurds who came to those villages and sought to liberate them. so the kurds are earning a reputation as a responsible actor. they are conducting their affairs in the interests of kurds under their control and kurds in the region. but we're not going to see an independent kurdistan anytime soon. i think we're looking at a three to four-year project. and, ultimately, it's not something which is going to be achieved through confrontation or conflict. it's going to be achieved
through a political dialogue. and in some ways that is going to be between erbil and baghdad. >> interesting. so let me ask you one more question and then just invite the audience to think about some questions to you while i do so. you've given us the map of the challenges involved for kurdish statehood. what about just bringing stability to the region? all of these moving parts, the kurds -- i would take it -- should be part of a longer stabilization strategy long-term outlook in the region. but, you know, what advice are you giving policymakers now regarding this new middle eastern map and all of these changing -- what should be our priorities? >> there should be closer security or cooperation between
the u.s. and iraqi kurdistan. that means that weapons should be delivered directly through the airport in erbil. instead of light and medium defensive weapons, we should be providing heavy weapons including those of an offensive nature. our training program should be intensified so the peshmerga are better skilled to go into battle. i had a conversation with the state department 48 hours ago about these very subjects. i made a point that treating the kurdistan regional government as an ally and a friend isn't going to encourage their breakaway from iraq. it'll actually encourage a more moderate and slow approach on their part because hale be tweet -- they'll be treated with a dignity that they have shown to deserve. we should also be working closely with the kurds in syria. the head of the pyd was invited
by columbia to come to a seminar here. he submitted his visa application at the u.s. embassy in stockholm almost three years ago. the u.s. government still hasn't acted on his visa request. since the pyd has shown that they're capable of taking on isis in kobani and elsewhere, we should be meeting with them, we should be talking about security cooperation, we should be supporting their political objectives. >> and not having these relationships mediated by national b -- [inaudible] >> we don't have a relationship with the kurds of syria. there are occasionally meeting between the u.s. special envoy and -- [inaudible] in paris. but he should be invited to washington for a full scale consultation with the pentagon capitol hill and with the state department about closer cooperation. and when it comes to turkey, we should recognize that the pkk, which is on the u.s. list of
foreign terrorist organizations, has now become a force for democracy and stability in the region. their participation in the battle of kobani was critical to defeating isis there. there are direct negotiations between abdullah -- [inaudible] and the turkish national intelligence agency about a peace deal. so if the government of turkey is negotiating with the pkk, why should the u.s. keep the pkk on its fto list? as a way of galvanizing those negotiations and recognizing the positive contribution that the pkk can play, they should be removed from the list. and we should keep in mind they were only listed in the first place right after 9/11 as part of a deal that established turkey as head of the resistance force for afghanistan. so i advocate a kurdish-centric policy. looking at kurds as sources of
stability, as proponents of democracy and having a positive influence on the regimes in the region. time will tell whether or not the u.s. pivots and provides the kind of political and diplomatic support for the kurds that they deserve. when they do it will serve u.s. national security interests and democracy in the middle east region. >> okay, great. well on that note, i think this would be a good time to open it up to to questions from the audience. and there is a mic that's going to make its way around, so i would just ask that you identify yourself -- i think right here if we could get -- >> first question. >> identify yourself and your institutional affiliation and ask your question, that would be great. thank you. >> testing testing.
>> you hear? all right. i work for an aid organization to benefit refugee children. question going into erbil, the capital of kurdistan it's very westernized, it's very liberal it has a sushi restaurant as reported. it's amazing how normal it seems. but when you stand on the border of erbil the fighting can be seep from the the border -- can be seen from the border. the front line is 26 kilometers away. and it's so small that the u.s. government is hesitant to continue to assist with air raids. so how safe is it in this period of time and in the next four weeks for aid workers to go to erbil? >> great, thank you. >> so when i was on the border i was having images of kurdish friends of mine who i've worked
with and known for many years swinging from street posts and lamp posts in erbil. we really came within a day of erbil falling. the obama administration intervened to preevent that. after benghazi, we didn't want to have another consul general collapse. we had major u.s. oil corporations with headquarters in erbil, and there was also an obligation to the kurds who had been steadfast allies and friends of the united states since 1991. today iraqi kurdistan is still precarious. islamic state fighters recently awe tacked kirkuk. attacked kirkuk. they launched a major offensive. you can see them on horizon. the kurds are better prepared. they have adapted their battlefield techniques because of weapons that they've received from around the world.
they're better equipped and able to deal with the islamic state challenge. but we can't assume that the kurds would withstand an islamic state assault. we need to stay focused and continue our security cooperation and expand the kinds of assistance that we've been providing. and the u.s. can take lead, but we should do that in coordination with other countries that are supporting the kurds. when you rook -- look at the potential security partners of the u.s., you have the iraqi army which folded in mosul, you have the shiite militias that committed terrible atrocities in diyala. when tikrit fell, there were a thousand shiite members of the iraqi army who were slaughtered. what's going to happen if tikrit is retaken? you have the so-called moderate syrian opposition who despite
the great efforts of the u.s. to fund them i'm not sure who they are. so when we think about security partners, we need to think about the kurds in the region and it would not be in our security interest nor would it be correct for the u.s. to allow iraqi kurdistan to fall to the islamic state. so it's, it has a tenuous situation, but ultimately, the kurds will prevail. >> [inaudible] >> so you have a trip planned you'll be okay. when you're in erbil you'll have a great sense of normalcy. but we have to remember that the islamic state is a real fighting force, and if we don't keep our eye on the adversary and support our friends, the islamic state could very well roll into iraqi kurdistan. now, i've always maintained that the u.s. should stop trying to placate its adversaries and start working more closely with
it friends who are the kurds. the only thing that arabs can agree on in iraq is their shared dislike of the united states. >> let's take some more questions for david. yes, sir. wait for the microphone to make its way. great, thank you. >> thank you for this presentation. i'm alec from -- [inaudible] a scholar here. >> where are you from? >> from turkey. i'm assistant professor in turkey. i have two question and one short comment. the first question is about the beginning of history -- >> we just ask you, sir, to speak slowly and clearly into the mic? because we're taping this. >> oh, okay. my first question and comment is about the beginning of history. you framed beginning of kurdish independence as the following u.k., france establish a commission, the p independence
of kurdistan was about -- was a matter of time. but it was interrupted by ataturk's independence war. this was your framing of the beginning. but why we ignore the elephant in the room? the u.k. and france were there in this region and they colonized iraq syria and some part of this middle east region. and why they do not let the establishment of kurdish stay in hair own colony of territory -- their own colony of territory if they were so good. this is my first question. second is about the current process in turkey. and the government is quite autocratic, tiranic, okay. but this same government is doing the peace process with pkk. they are negotiating -- >> can you just get to your second question? >> okay, this is second. yeah okay. this is my second question.
and, but this was unimaginable a decade ago. in turkey, kurdish party is trying to be a part of turkey not a party of kurds currently. trying to reframe kurdish issue as a democratic issue in turkey. not an issue for independence. how do you take this recent development -- >> thank you. and i'm going to have to cut you off just to get david'ss to those two with -- responses to those two important questions. initial u.k./french reaction and how do you judge this process with the pkk party with turkey now. >> they would have stood in support of kurdish national aspirations, but that required
military confrontation with turkey. and with ataturk's forces. and after fighting a long world war, no great power had an in continued violent conflict. the u.s. was offered as a protect rate of the kurds -- protect rate of the kurds. but wilson's health was failing and he didn't want the u.s. to become a colonial power, so he demured from that responsibility. clearly, the problems that exist in the region were set in motion by sykes and picot and then institutionalized later by lausanne. so your question about the negotiations with the pkk, we should be absolutely clear that the kurds of turkey do not want an independent kurdistan.
they want to enjoy rights and democratic privileges equal to the the citizens of turkey. the problem is that other citizens of turkey don't have rights and democratic privileges. since 2012 turkey has pursued a decidedly authoritarian tendency it was a peaceful protest over an environmental issue. there was a heavy-handed police response. accusations of police brutality. and protests spread to 60 cities. since then we've seen a systematic crackdown on freedom of expression. article 301 of the penal code still exists which makes it a crime to denigrate turkishness. used to clamp down on political expression. article viii of the antiterror act sumly is broadly --
similarly is broadly interpreted. so turkey has, under erdogan, adopted decidedly authoritarian tendencies. these negotiations that he's having with the pkk aren't motivateed by any respect for the kurds or any desire to institutionalize kurdish rights. they're motivated by one single goal: erdogan wants to establish an executive presidency through constitutional reform. thereby further consolidating his power. in order to do that, in order to gain the votes, he needs support of kurdish members of parliament. if the kurds pass the 10% threshold in the june election and are seated in the parliament, they represent a swing vote. and as long as that possibility exists these negotiations are continue. ..